The Journey to Independence
The Journey to Independence

The Journey to Independence

Stephen Sharp’s road to adulthood has not always been easy.

Stephen was placed into foster care at the age of 16, after he stopped going to school and spent time in a detention center. He was a teenager forced to adjust to a new way of life in a group home. He found himself having to decide—surrender to the struggle he was facing, or fight his way out of it. He chose to fight.

Stephen’s social worker introduced him to DePaul’s Independent Living program in Charlottesville. After attending an open house at one of the Independent Living apartments, Stephen decided DePaul would be his next move—his next step in the fight for independence.

At first, Stephen thought having a roof over his head would be the most important thing DePaul provided. But he admits he was wrong. Through his time in the program, he said he learned respect and responsibility. He learned it was OK to ask for help, and he learned that support is vital to success. For Stephen, the Independent Living program was a chance to get his life back on track.

“Honestly I can’t really imagine my life without the program. I probably would have been homeless. I wouldn’t have had the support I needed,” said Stephen.

After about a year in the Independent Living program and miles of life lessons learned, Stephen chose to take another step toward independence. The 19-year-old is renting a place with friends, and he has a job. He will be getting his driver’s license soon and is already saving for a car. He’s also halfway through getting his GED. But Stephen and DePaul have not parted ways just yet.

When the time came to move out of his Independent Living apartment, Stephen knew he still needed some support. He knew he wasn’t ready to be completely on his own. That’s why DePaul’s Transition to Adulthood program was created. This program extends life skills training and support to young adults outside of DePaul’s care. Stephen is hoping the program will lead to him living completely on his own, continuing his education, and finding the right career path.

In the past few years, Stephen has truly transformed. He is happier, healthier, and has a plan for the future. He knows he didn’t get to this place alone; he tries to be grateful every day. Grateful for the support he’s received. Grateful for the people who believe in him. Grateful that he had the strength to believe in himself.

“I’m grateful for the road I’m on and where I’m heading,” said Stephen.